Top Winters headlines in 2021

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he A Wing of the old Winters High School building was demolished to make way for a new 12-classroom building and administrative office. (Rick von Geldern/Winters Express)

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In 2021, Winters community and its businesses continued to adjust and pivot as changes in COVID related guidelines continuously came down the pipeline. Yet, life continued on and residents took action to maneuver around curveballs and celebrated the wins.

New paths, official status
The Winters Hispanic Advisory Committee had big wins in 2021. In February, key members of the Winters HAC worked to create the Winters Community Corazón Foundation, a nonprofit organization tasked to handle the Winters HAC’s charitable work and to facilitate tax-free donations. In December, the Winters City Council officially authorized the Winters HAC a City standing committee.

The Winters HAC has served the community since 2005 and has presented various events and workshops including the Festival de la Comunidad (Carnitas Festival) and Citizenship workshops. The initial inspiration for the Winters HAC came as a call to bridge more services and opportunities within the local Spanish speaking community.

Kepi & Duvall retire
Chaplain Robert Duvall and K-9 Kepi officially retired from the Winters Public Safety Crisis Intervention Team on May 31. Duvall became the police and fire chaplain for the City of Winters. In 2015, he was given Kepi the service dog from Canine Companions for Independence and the duo made their way serving

as a K-9 service chaplaincy and crisis intervention program – the first of its kind.

Duvall and Kepi provided support to fire and law enforcement personnel and community members in Solano and Yolo counties in times of high stress and crisis. Following retirement, Kepi remains with Duvall living out her life as a family pet.

Goodbye old WHS
The Winters High School building was bull-dozed down in June to make way for a new era of WHS buildings. The main building was originally built in the early 1950s following a fire that destroyed the previous high school building. It held three wings of classrooms and the administrative offices, and doubled the student capacity at the time. The Class of 1951 was the first class to graduate from the new WHS building.

The area now holds a new administrative building and a new 12-classroom building. WHS students were able to attend classes in the new building on return from their spring break.

Shifts in school leadership

Winters Joint Unified School District saw big shifts in leadership last year. In February 2021 the Board of Trustees voted to release Assistant Superintendent Sandra Ayón from her position. Superintendent Diana Jiménez said the decision on Ayón’s release was aligned with a current revision of the school district’s focus on closing student achievement gaps and revising district leadership roles.

Phoebe Girimonte was approved as the new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in June. Girimonte had previously served 19 years in Winters JUSD, and prior to the role had served as the Winters Middle School Principal.

Following Girimonte’s shift in roles, Dawn Delorefice shifted to serve as the Winters Middle School Principal and Andy Haas was appointed to serve as the new WHS Vice Principal.

Waggoner Elementary School Principal Jennifer Kloczko announced her resignation in March. Kloczko had accepted a new position in the South Lake Tahoe school district, but served the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

Travis Nelson-Ortiz was appointed as the new Waggoner Principal in May. Nelson-Ortiz came from the Fairfield-Suisun School District, where he previously served as the Assistant Principal of the B. Gale Wilson TK-8 School.

Other Winters JUSD newcomers included Chief Business Officer Jennifer Passaglia in January (who resigned in the Fall) and current Chief Business Officer Jonathan Feagle who was appointed in August, and Jenny Pinedo who was appointed as the new Special Education & Student Services Director in November.

Catalytic convertor thefts
Winters residents were not spared in the nation-wide theft of catalytic converters this year. In February, at least six Toyota Priuses were hit and in April Winters Police Officers disrupted a suspected catalytic converter theft in process. By April, three more thefts had been reported with more to follow the remainder of the year.

Power down
At the end of January, multiple businesses and residents in the downtown area were left without power and internet access following a major winter storm. A cluster of businesses and residents between Grant Avenue and Main Street, along Railroad Avenue remained without electricity for about three days.

Lester Farms Bakery reported having to toss items from their refrigerator and cold case display. They were able to open again and serve products the following Sunday because their freshly made products take a two-day preparation process. Winters City Hall and Mariani Nut Company were other businesses who reported they had to shut down businesses as usual in their locations along Main Street and Railroad Avenue.

The areas were hit with other power outages that winter, but none as severe as the one that occurred the end of January.

Youth vaccine mandate protests
In October, families with children in the Winters JUSD organized protests against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that all California students ages five and older would need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine pending FDA approval to attend public and private schools in the 2022-2023 school year.

Some families participated in a state-wide walkout on Oct. 18, and kept their children home with an unexcused access to protest the mandate. Winters JUSD reported to the Express it had 221 unexcused absences (22 percent of total enrollment district-wide) on that day.

On Oct. 21, about 40 community members gathered along Grant Avenue outside of the Winters JUSD office building holding signs with messaging varying from stopping the mandate to wanting to have the choice over whether their children received the vaccine. Multiple families also attended the Board of Trustees meeting that evening asking Trustees and Superintendent to represent their voice up the chain of command.

New fire safe councils
Greater Winters Area residents and City officials began participating in the formation of Fire Safe Councils for Yolo County and rural residential areas (Golden Bear and Positas Road). Another council is also being formed for the Pleasants Valley Road area.

Fire Safe Councils are a volunteer effort that receives support from local, state and federal agencies to help residents to collectively protect homes and their community against wildfires.

According to the California Fire Safe Council, localized Fire Safe Councils efforts help reduce risks to life, homes, structures and natural and man-made resources by coordinating efforts with county fire councils, Cal Fire, law enforcement and local fire districts.

Mosquitos return
The invasive Aedes Aegypti mosquito returned to Winters in full force in May. It’s presence continued to expand across town through August, promtping the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District to create a team to tackle the infestation specifically for the Winters area.

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